Have you considered the Google AdWords certification? It wasn’t on my 2015 plan, but when I had the chance to model my final grad school project on the Google Online Marketing Challenge  (a global AdWords competition), it was a natural choice. And yes, if you’re wondering, PotterMore did sort me into Ravenclaw.

Google-AdWords-Certified-BiancaThe Google Adwords certification has two exams. One fundamental exam that everyone needs to pass, and then one other specialty. I chose Search because I was originally going to use funding from a Google Grant for my project. The project changed, but I thought I may as well stay with it. It’s useful. The other options are mobile, display, shopping, and video.

I wasn’t totally naive to AdWords and the process when I dove in. A few years ago, I passed the Fundamentals exam and lead AdWords training for a team at Marchex. At the time, the exam seemed really hard because I was working on Marchex’s AdWords projects. They’re a lot more churn and burn, so most of the Google-preferred tactics, like optimizing for conversion, were new to me.

To sit the exams now, you need to register as a Google Partner. This alone won’t give you partner status; they’ve just centralized the training and exams. This is better than last time I sat it when you had multiple accounts, and it was messy. It’s also free now, whereas the exams were previously $50 each.

Google AdWords Fundamentals Exam

Google-AdWords-Fundamentals-Study-GuideThe fundamentals exam has 100 questions, and 80% is needed for a pass. You have 120 minutes, so easily enough time. I think I used an hour.

The study materials are all online. It’s a mix of text and videos. I also printed out the 75 page PDF version and made notes as I went. Working through the materials probably took three days, and I spread it out. It was covering match types, and account structures, with lots of practical scenarios. The PDF guide was a lot shorter with less information than when I previously sat the fundamentals exam.

Next I revised by watching these Google AdWords videos. Then I figured I had procrastinated enough and if I failed I could re-sit the exam in seven days so I dove in.

The exam was fairly straight forward with lots of scenarios. The post-its and notes in the printed PDF helped to check match type symbols or to confirm a geo-targeting option, but it was fairly easy. I got bored at about the 70% mark. I probably could have passed the exam without the videos, but I’m a bit of a perfectionist and didn’t want to waste time sitting the exam again. I passed with 85%, so it was enough.

Google AdWords Search Exam

From the start, I knew this was going to be harder. The PDF guide was 471 pages in eight modules. So this is where the information from the earlier Fundamentals exam went. I started reading through the PDF, but then life got in the way and semester started, and I got lost. So I made a list of links to each module and topic, started again, and worked through it online.

If I studied this solid, it would have taken nearly a week. However, the information gets so dense, and there are less videos and scenarios. My brain went to mush a few times. The Performance Monitoring and Reporting module was exceptionally painful. It looked long, but then most topics had sub-topics, and all the information started blurring together. That ice-cream break was well-earned. I remember things better if I write them, so I made notes on all the call out boxes. I thought if they’re important enough for a call out box, then they’re important enough for the exam. Plus, there were times my brain was so mushed, writing was the only thing making any sense.

After making it through the mountain of materials, I definitely needed revision. I was blanking on the basics. I Googled for flash cards and revision notes and found two rather useful resources: a YouTube video and a list of questions with answers. I watched the YouTube video until it crashed at the one hour mark and then read over the questions. There seemed to be a strong correlation between both resources. Is that vague enough to infer I stumbled upon the exam answers?

Sitting the exam the next night confirmed I had stumbled on the answers. That’s why I’m not linking to them here. I’m not sure if having them helped. I did refer to them once or twice on things I could have looked up in the training materials. I also contradicted their answers a couple of times. You don’t get given the correct answers so I don’t know if I knew better or not.

The exam didn’t come close to covering all the study materials, to my relief. It was also more direct with fewer scenarios. The reporting was mainly asking definitions of terms in report names – make sure you learn reach AND frequency. A few geo-targeting questions and also a few from the Fundamentals, so don’t forget your match types. As others have said, there are a few questions about the AdWords API, and lots of “where would you find X data?”.

The Search exam is 98 questions but still needs 80% for a pass. You get 120 minutes, and it took me about 90. This is the same as in the video I found. It’s a lot less scary than the study materials.

Was It Worth Sitting the Google AdWords Exams?

Google-AdWords-CertificateFor me, probably not. I work on more social media and organic campaigns, versus paid search. I also already had a basic understanding of pay-per-click advertising. It’s useful for this grad school project because I know what I can make AdWords do, but I will need to refer to my notes to set up conversion tracking. I didn’t learn enough to memorize it. Google AdWords is on my resume but it’s not a focus, and I don’t want it to be my career. I could have gained enough knowledge just from Google’s overview videos.

Note: The Google AdWords exams need to be renewed annually. You only need a pass in the Fundamentals and one other exam to be certified, so you can avoid the Search exam. In 11 months I could take the mobile exam, then the next year the display and work through the shorter sections.

Featured image credit: Stefano Montagner via Flickr

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